Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced a bill on Tuesday that would modernize the hemp industry, develop specific guidelines and encourage federal research into a wide-range of potential applications for the crop.
Among other areas of investigation, it would mandate research into everything from the use of hemp food products for public school lunches to the potential therapeutic value of the crop’s extracts for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to even its ability to clear contaminants from nuclear sites.
The legislation, titled the “Hemp for Victory Act,” also focuses on research into the plant as an alternative to plastics and its ability to prevent soil erosion. And it would establish grant programs to develop studies on hemp’s potential as a domestic agricultural commodity and to create tools to protect farms growing it.
While the 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp and its derivatives, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are actively developing regulations for the crop. USDA rules are expected to be released ahead of the 2020 planting season, and FDA has indicated that regulations providing for the lawful marketing of hemp as food items or dietary supplements may take years without congressional action.
Gabbard’s proposal goes far beyond simply developing baseline regulations to cultivate, process and sell hemp products, though. Here’s what the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate’s legislation entails for each federal department, according to a summary of the 24-page bill circulated by her office:
U.S. Department of Agriculture
—Establish a grant program for universities to “conduct research on establishing hemp as a domestic agricultural commodity.”
—Study the nutritional value of hemp foods, drinks and supplement products.
—Study whether such hemp products could be used as “low-cost healthy alternatives” for public school lunches for low-income students.
—Research whether items being used by the federal government its contractors could be substituted by hemp-based products.
—Study the potential of hemp “for soil erosion control and as a windscreen.”
—Create guidance for cultivating organic hemp.
—Designate hemp as a “high priority research” crop eligible for grants that would be used to “develop and disseminate science-based tools and treatments to combat noxious species that impact hemp farms, and to establish and areawide integrated pest management program.”
—Research the economics of the international hemp market.
—Study the “use and presence of agricultural chemicals and pathogens” in hemp to inform public safety standards.
—Make hemp available for grants to conduct research “on the cultivation of hemp as a commodity, including production guidance for underserved and rural communities and technical assistance for available grants.”
—Integrate hemp into market research publications.
—Study how to create “buffer zones” between marijuana and hemp farms to avoid cross-pollination.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
—Study the “presence of pathogens in hemp-based and hemp-blended products and their impact on the health and safety of consumers.”
—Study whether hemp can be used as a substitute for health care industry products used to deliver, create, store or administer prescription drugs.
Small Business Administration
—Develop guidance manuals for individuals interested in creating a small business, “which will focus on Native Hawaiians, Indian Tribes and veterans.”
U.S. Department of Defense
—Study what items used by the DOD could be substituted with hemp.
—Study the impact of using hemp and derivatives such as CBD “on military preparedness.”
—Study the use of hemp as an “alternative to current health supplements with regard to the armed forces deployed in support of contingency operations, and its effect on preparedness, physical and mental health, and safety,” which includes active and non-active service members diagnosed with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.
—Study hemp’s potential to “clear contaminants from nuclear sites and heavy metal contamination.”
U.S. Department of Labor
—Issue a report on the application of federal laws in states with hemp programs to “ensure the health and safety of individuals working in the hemp industry.”
—Issue a report on the application of federal laws in states with hemp programs to “ensure fair, equitable and proper treatment of individuals working in the hemp industry.”
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
—Study how the cultivation of hemp can assist in weed control, reducing ecological damage, detoxifying carbon dioxide and preventing soil erosion.
—Study how hemp can be used to “clear impurities in water, wastewater, sewage effluent and post-disaster relief due to flooding or animal waste.”
—Study whether hemp could be used as a substitute for certain plastics and also research whether such a substitute could reduce “landfill waste and ocean pollution.”
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
—Study the “the use of hempcrete for affordable and sustainable housing.”
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
—Study the potential benefits of hemp in the treatment of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, depression and anxiety among veterans.
Gabbard has been a long-standing advocate for cannabis. She filed a bipartisan bill in March that would federally deschedule marijuana, and she repeatedly spoke in favor of legalizing hemp prior to the passage of the Farm Bill.
The congresswoman spoke during her presidential campaign launch speech about how the criminal justice system “puts people in prison for smoking marijuana while allowing corporations like Purdue Pharma, who are responsible for the opioid-related deaths of thousands of people, to walk away scot-free with their coffers full.”
Read the full text of Gabbard’s hemp bill below:
Gabbar 023 XML by on Scribd
Photo element courtesy of Lorie Shaull.
Andrew Yang Wants To Legalize Psychedelic Mushrooms For Military Veterans
Andrew Yang says he wants to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for military veterans to help them combat mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
During a town hall event at an Iowa college on Thursday, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was asked whether he would take initiative and allow veterans to access medical marijuana if elected. Yang replied he “will be so excited to be that commander-in-chief” that he would not only end federal cannabis prohibition but would go one step further by legalizing the psychedelic fungus for veterans as well.
“We need to get marijuana off of the Controlled Substances Act and legalize it at the federal level, make it freely available,” he said. “I say this because I’ve talked to hundreds of veterans and other Americans who benefit from marijuana as a pain relief treatment, and it’s much less deadly than the opiates that many, many people are using for the same conditions.”
“I’ve talked to veterans who’ve also benefited from psilocybin mushrooms,” he added. “They said it was the only thing that actually has helped combat their PTSD. I’m for legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for veterans as well. Pretty much if it’s going to help a veteran, we should make it easier, not harder, for them to get access to it.”
Yang’s drug policy reform platform is unique in that respect. While the majority of Democratic candidates support marijuana legalization, he’s pushed unique proposals such as decriminalizing possession of opioids and making psilocybin mushrooms “more freely available” for therapeutic purposes. The candidate also wants to invest federal funds in safe injection facilities where individuals can use prohibited drugs in a medically supervised environment and receive help getting into treatment.
He hasn’t gone so far as embracing the decriminalization of all drugs, as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has, however.
That said, Yang did signal that he’s open to legalizing and regulating “certain drugs” beyond cannabis, which he argued would disrupt international drug cartels. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) recently said she backs “legalizing and regulating” currently illegal controlled substances to protect public safety and combat the illicit market.
At the Iowa town hall, Yang went on to say that he’s particularly interested in legalizing marijuana, and he again pledged to “pardon everyone who’s in jail for a non-violent marijuana-related offense because they shouldn’t be in jail for something that’s frankly legal in other parts of the country.”
“And I would pardon them all on April 20, 2021, high-five them on the way out of jail and be like, ‘things got a lot better in the last year,'” he said, referencing the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20.
Photo element courtesy of Gage Skidmore.
Tom Steyer Calls For Marijuana Legalization And Opioid Decriminalization
Billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer is calling for the legalization of marijuana and decriminalization of opioid possession.
In a criminal justice reform plan released on Thursday, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate laid out a vision for ending the drug war, which he said has contributed to mass incarceration and is enforced in a racially disproportionate manner.
“Tom believes we must end the failed War on Drugs. Based on the flawed idea that incarceration is the answer to addiction, federal and state elected officials passed severe sentencing laws that encouraged incarceration for low-level drug offenses,” the plan states. “Unfortunately, communities of color were and continue to be disproportionately affected and targeted by these laws, even when other ethnicities were committing the same drug crimes at the same rates.”
Today @TomSteyer announced a new criminal justice plan to:
– Reform the juvenile system
– Improve prison conditions
– Redirect funds to education
– Eliminate cash bail
– Release more rehabilitated people
– End the war on drugs
And much more! 👉 https://t.co/3VYRw7ioXB
— TeamTom 🌎 (@TomHQ) January 24, 2020
There are six proposals in the drug war section, including legalizing cannabis and expunging prior marijuana convictions, ending mandatory minimum sentences and empowering judges to use more discretion in non-violent drug cases, diverting people convicted of drug offenses to treatment or drug court, ending the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, sealing the records of certain drug convictions and decriminalizing opioids while investing $75 billion in treatment programs and holding pharmaceutical companies accountable.
Steyer specifically endorsed House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s (D-NY) Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would deschedule cannabis, expunge prior convictions and set aside tax revenue to support communities most impacted by the drug war.
“Policing marijuana use has led to too many unfair incarcerations and predominantly impacted communities of color,” the plan says. It also criticizes then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s 2018 move on “repealing leniency given to states for marijuana laws.”
Today, I'm meeting with formerly incarcerated individuals to talk about transforming the criminal justice system through police accountability, ending cash bail, providing adequate funding to re-entry programs, and so much more. pic.twitter.com/m9lDEKWwwU
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) January 23, 2020
“A Steyer Administration will also open equitable pathways to banking for marijuana businesses,” it continues. “The federal government—including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation—should not be a barrier to marijuana businesses receiving support from their local banks.”
“Incarceration is not the answer to addiction, and low-level drug offenses should not carry a severe sentence. Tom will legalize marijuana, let states pass their own policies, expunge past records, and direct the federal government to open banking services to the marijuana industry. Tom’s administration will end the disparity between crack and cocaine sentences, decriminalize opioid possession, and invest $75 billion to address the opioid crisis.”
The opioid decriminalization proposal is similar to that of entrepreneur Andrew Yang, another 2020 candidate who said removing criminal penalties for possessing the substance is necessary in order to help get people into treatment and curb the opioid crisis. Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have gone further, calling for the decriminalization of all drug possession and, in Gabbard’s case, also the legalization and regulation of illicit drugs.
“Tom supports decriminalizing small amounts of opioid possession for personal use at the federal level,” the plan states. “He will address the opioid crisis through $75 billion in new funding over ten years to resource state and local treatment programs, hold big pharmaceutical corporations and their executives accountable, and strongly enforce laws that end the illicit distribution and sale of opioids.”
This is a notable development for Steyer, who hasn’t discussed drug policy reform as much as many other candidates in the race and whose views on decriminalization of substances beyond marijuana were previously unknown.
Last year, Steyer said he supported creating a national referendum process so that Americans can made decisions about a wide range of policy issues, including cannabis legalization.
He also previously discussed his support for ending marijuana prohibition and providing the industry with access to banking, saying that he and his wife wanted to provide financial services to minority- and women-owned cannabis firms through their community bank, but federal prohibition means the business would be put at risk if they did that.
Steyer’s new plan also calls for juvenile justice reform, ending cash bail, banning facial recognition technology in policing, demilitarizing law enforcement, improving prison conditions and eliminating the death penalty, among other reforms.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Gage Skidmore.
Austin City Council Approves Measure To End Most Marijuana Arrests
The decision to back away from pursuing criminal charges against people with small amounts of pot comes after state lawmakers last year legalized hemp in a way that threw marijuana prosecution into chaos.
The Austin City Council approved a resolution Thursday that will largely end arrests and fines for low-level marijuana possession. This comes after Texas’ legalization of hemp last June threw marijuana prosecution into chaos since the plants look and smell identical.
The resolution directing Austin police not to spend city resources on newly necessary lab tests to distinguish marijuana from now-legal hemp passed unanimously with nine votes. Council member Jimmy Flannigan and Mayor Steve Adler were absent. Debate on the measure lasted just under an hour and a half. Of about 20 people who spoke on the resolution, only Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday was against it.
The council’s resolution states that it stems directly from Texas’ new law legalizing hemp. Last summer, following a federal hemp bill, state lawmakers approved a measure to create an agricultural industry for the crop in Texas. But the law also complicated marijuana prosecutions by narrowing the legal definition of the drug from cannabis to cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant.
Joint Effort: #ATXCouncil takes steps to eliminate the use of arrest or other enforcement action for low-level cannabis-related possession offenses + ensure City resources are focused on citizens’ public safety priorities. View the draft resolution: https://t.co/qNJ6L2ZPjJ. pic.twitter.com/rdwiLjx0w8
— City of Austin (@austintexasgov) January 23, 2020
All of a sudden, some district attorneys were dropping hundreds of low-level pot possession cases and not accepting new ones, arguing they couldn’t tell without lab testing if something was marijuana anymore. New misdemeanor marijuana cases filed by Texas prosecutors have dropped by more than half. And numerous Texas prosecutors, including those in Austin’s Travis County, require police to submit lab reports on a substance’s THC concentration before they will pursue misdemeanor marijuana charges. They argue circumstantial evidence like smell can no longer be used to authoritatively say something is marijuana.
Part of what prompted the Austin resolution — which prohibits spending city funds on such testing except in felony cases — is that public state labs are still working on establishing a way to test for that THC concentration. Right now they can only tell if something is cannabis. For some counties and cities, that has meant putting more money into shipping seized cannabis to private labs that can tell if it’s hemp or marijuana.
Even in places where police don’t have or aren’t spending funds on such testing and new cases aren’t being accepted by prosecutors, people are still being cited or arrested. They are sometimes taken to jail but then released with no charges being pursued. Austin police said this month that they still arrest or cite people who are suspected of possessing marijuana.
This resolution changes that, directing the city to get as close as possible to eliminating enforcement action for low-level cannabis possession.
The measure prohibits spending city funds on testing in low-level possession cases, and it directs police not to arrest or cite people in such cases — unless there is a safety concern — if they know the district attorney will automatically reject the charges or testing won’t be approved. It clarifies that lab testing can be used for suspected felonies or when the cannabis is not for personal use, like trafficking cases. A revised version also specifies that the measure will not affect toxicology testing.
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